Auditors from the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general's office are probing whether National Institutes for Health (NIH) officials properly managed research grants that ended up partially funding controversial “gain-of-function” research at China’s Wuhan lab.
“NIH must manage and administer federal awards to ensure that federal funding is expended and associated programs are implemented in full accordance with statutory and public policy requirements. To do so, NIH must monitor grantee performance and grantee use of NIH funds.
“Grantees are responsible for complying with all requirements of the federal award, including maintaining effective internal controls over the federal award.
“Grantees that function as pass-through entities must monitor the activities of subrecipients, including foreign subrecipients, to ensure that subawards are used for authorized purposes in compliance with relevant laws and the terms and conditions of the subaward.
“We will review NIH's monitoring of selected grants, and grantee use and management of NIH grant funds in accordance with federal requirements.”
The OIG investigation was prompted by a request earlier this year from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) that the OIG examine the failure of EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), a New York-based nonprofit research foundation, to comply with federal disclosure requirements of how it spent NIH grant funds.
“That’s what the OIG is looking into is [EHA’s] failure to comply with federal law,” Ernst told reporters during a Pen & Pad session in her office on June 15. “As well as finding the origins of the virus, we also need to, besides following the science, we need to follow the money.”
EHA has used federal funds to support gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab. Such research includes techniques researchers use to alter the DNA of a virus to give it additional characteristics, including greater resistance to vaccines, more rapid spread among victims, and specific symptoms they would suffer.
Chinese officials insist the disease spread to humans from bats via raw meat sold in an open-air market not far from the lab. Multiple U.S. and other officials and experts in government and the public health sector, however, think the contagion may have been engineered in and released either by accident or otherwise from the lab, which is closely linked to the Chinese military and has benefited from U.S. government funding.
“Just some numbers so everybody can see how big a problem this is, just to EcoHealth alone, and never mind all the other grantees the OIG might identify as violating the law, EcoHealth has gotten $61.5 million in taxpayer money since 2008,” Goodman told reporters.
“Just since the pandemic began, they’ve gotten $19 million, and that’s $17 million from the [Department of Defense] DOD and over $2 million from NIH.
“So even though [EcoHealth] has been violating the law, NIH has been notified they’ve been violating the law, NIH continues to cut checks to the EcoHealth Alliance, both for research they’re doing in China and other places.”
EHA didn't respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment by press time. The organization also has declined to respond to requests from House Republicans for information about its participation with the WIV in research on coronaviruses found in bats.
Also signing the letter were Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.). The 10-page, single-spaced letter addressed 34 detailed questions to the nonprofit.
“Further, for several years, EHA has provided some of its National Institutes of Health (NIH) federal funding to WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology] as a federal sub-award recipient for bat coronavirus research to conduct high-quality testing, sequencing, field sample analyses, sample storage and testing, and collaboration on scientific publications and programmatic reporting. It has been reported that EHA’s China bat research project was funded entirely through NIH awards,” the letter reads.